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Meeke coy over possibility of waving hello to Toyota deal

By Sammy Hamill

Published 05/12/2015

Decision to make: Kris Meeke (right) has an unclear future
Decision to make: Kris Meeke (right) has an unclear future

Kris Meeke is being linked with a move to the new Toyota rally team when his Citroen contract runs out at the end of the year.

The Japanese manufacturer will return to the World championship after a 17-year gap but won't take full part in the series until 2017.

It would mean a year away from the championship for the Dungannon driver while the new Toyota Yaris WRC is developed in Finland by the company run by former World champion Tommi Makinen.

But it is a prospect the Rally Argentina winner faces anyway following Citroen's announcement that they were withdrawing from the 2016 championship to concentrate on developing a new car for 2017. They did indicate there was a possibility he could take part in some rounds with one of the satellite teams they support.

However, his main role would be as lead test driver for the new car, a task he has carried out for Citroen for a number of years, but I understand the sticking point is a guarantee that he would be one of the team's drivers in 2017 and beyond.

Although Meeke won't comment on the Toyota link, telling me only that "he has a decision to make" about his future, it is reported he recently visited the Makinen Racing facility in Jyvaskyla and is said to be negotiating directly with Makinen himself on 'a multi-year agreement'.

Makinen, who won the drivers' title four times, said: "Kris is a very nice person, we like him very much and yes I have met him. I have seen him around recently. Kris is somebody we could imagine having in our team."

But he added: "We are in discussions with various drivers for 2017, bearing in mind that we hope to enter at least two, if not three vehicles into the championship. Testing is due to start during spring 2016 and an extensive schedule has already been drawn up in order to hold tests in Finland and around the world."

Volkswagen No.2 Jari-Matti Latvala, Makinen's fellow Finn, is thought to be top of Toyota's wishlist but he has another year to run on his VW contract and would not be available to work on the development of the new car.

Makinen yesterday confirmed key members of the Toyota team with Simon Carrier, who headed the Ford Focus RS design team at M-Sport, as chief designer, Jarmo Lehtinen, former co-driver to Mikko Hirvonen, as sporting director and Michael Zotos, Makinen's rally engineer when he drove for Subaru, as technical director.

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